Another Jamesian practice is at play: Lovely Mover begins and ends with a murder, which is not uncommon for stories taking place on Detective Sergeant Colin Harpur’s patch. The initial victim is Eleri ap Vaughan, a drug dispenser to the socialite set and one of Keith Vine’s most successful dealers. It is Vine himself who decides she must be eliminated for the sin of entertaining a bid from a more lucrative London house. Her death, Vine reasons, will keep out the foreign suppliers trying to gain ground while sending a clear message to any within his stable who may be longing to stray. Meanwhile, rival rising kingpin Ralph Ember must contend with a mutiny among his business partners, and the resolution of that conflict ratchets up tensions between Ralph and his own supplier. Harpur himself is still undercover as a crooked cop on Vine’s payroll, but the risks of continuing are quickly outpacing any judicial rewards.
As I wrote in a previous review, there are some entries in the Harpur & Iles series that operate very well as standalone tales. Lovely Mover, on the other hand, feels like an insider piece, and its readers certainly benefit from drawing on the psychologies and drives of these criminals as James has painted them over the books and years. The narrative does have standalone shape – certainly there is a beginning with complications and escalations that build to the irreversible actions found in the conclusion – but there are better places for casual readers to start.
The ap of Eleri ap Vaughan, we are told, means “child of” in Welsh, although it is more traditionally defined as “son of”. Keith Vine could be forgiven the imperfect translation, as he both admires and plans to kill the woman. “Eleri,” Vine hypothesizes through James’s writing, “probably meant a clear mountain stream or female peregrine falcon, something entirely lovely.” It is the presence of the Lovely Mover who has everyone agitated here, and pushes many of them to do some very unlovely things.